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Injury Crisis: Does Jurgen Klopp have a valid point with Premier League teams continuing to suffer more sideline setbacks?

Injuries have plagued Premier League sides this season, and no one more than the reigning Champions Liverpool. Fixtures have been packed together and players are feeling the effects. Liam Rowsell reviews the strain on the players and assesses potential solutions to this league-wide injury crisis.

What’s to blame for these lengthy injury lists?

The COVID-19 pandemic heavily disputed last season’s football calendar and as a result, once given the green light to continue playing, the season finished far later than usual. The usual gap between seasons was cut short, giving players little time to recover, but even after this the 2020/21 season was forced to start later than usual. This has meant that this season’s fixture list looks pretty hectic for Premier League clubs, some of which have to balance their league, cup and European commitments all at once.

Liverpool are among the most affected and their list of casualties already this season is extraordinary. A large proportion of Reds players have missed game time already this season, including the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Thiago and Alexander-Arnold and Jurgen Klopp has not shied away from expressing his disappointment with this. Following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw away to Brighton last weekend, Klopp was engaged in a fascinating interview with BT Sport’s Des Kelly, where he made his opinions quite clear, although probably enhanced by the disappointment of the result.

Although the headlines are focusing on Liverpool, they are not the only team to have had injury problems already this season. According to online injury database Premier Injuries, there have been 133 injuries in just the opening 10 Premier League match weeks, with an average of 1.4 injuries every game. As the season progresses, and especially over a very busy Christmas period without the winter break we had last season, it would be sensible to expect this problem to grow in weeks and months to come.

Virgil van Dijk injury

Are teams being hit with an unfair workload?

At the start of the season, English sides not in the top part of last season’s Premier League table, were engaged in Carabao Cup commitments during midweek, sandwiched between league fixtures at the weekend. That competition has now taken a pause until next year, but the European competitions have now stolen the midweek slots. As usual, Champions League fixtures are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays whilst they play Europa League fixtures on Thursdays. Because games are being played behind closed doors, TV broadcasters are currently showing all Premier League games live on TV, so league fixtures are now split played over a four-day period between Fridays and Mondays.

That means football every single day of the week, which of course if great for football fans. But not so great for the players themselves who at times this season have had, or will have, to play three times within the space of seven days. The major frustration for Jurgen Klopp in last weekend’s interview was the fact his side were in action at 8pm on Wednesday in the Champions League against Atalanta before their 12:30pm Premier League clash with Brighton on Saturday. This means one day for recovery and one day for preparation for the next game, which in an ideal world is far from how Premier League players and coaching staff would feel they could achieve maximum performance.

Jurgen Klopp seemed to express his anger at the interviewer himself who repeatedly expressed that it was not him, nor BT Sport who confirms the fixture list and that the Premier League make the rules and have the final say. However, it does seem very harsh on a side in action just a couple of days before to be given the early kick off, regardless of who makes the rules. Given that all of England’s top flight fixtures are being broadcast on TV at the moment anyway, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason to have a side with such a hectic schedule involved in the early kick off. You can understand Klopp’s frustrations with his current injury problems.

Jurgen Klopp scaled

Is there any way to solve this injury issue?

After the lockdown break during last season, the Premier League agreed to allow all teams to use five substitutions during a match, as did many other leagues around Europe. However, that rule has been scrapped for this season, despite the Champions League and the Europa League continuing to allow it. The quick turnaround from last season and the hectic schedule teams must endure at the moment will inevitably lead to more injuries, although this could be reduced if they could reduce playing time through the use of extra substitutes.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are clear supporters of five substitutes, although some managers are more opposed to the idea. They feel it would be unfair on slides lower down the table who have less squad depth and don’t have hundreds of millions of pounds sitting on the bench. Five substitutes during a game could give the stronger teams too much of an advantage if they have spare talent waiting to come on, and lower sides are forced to introduce less experienced youth players.

There’s also a fear that these extra substitutes could be used for tactical reasons rather than fitness related issues, as well as the fact that changes can often disrupt the flow of a game. The Premier League have tricky questions to consider and must weigh out the risk of increased injuries against potential unfair competition – the ultimate dilemma for any sporting body.

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